Navajo Times

12 December 2002


Navajos, Hopis speak against Snowbowl plan

By Sararesa Begay
The Navajo Times

Tuba City, Ariz.

To Klee Benally, a Navajo activist/musician/filmmaker, the Coconino National Forest's proposal to use reclaimed water to make snow at the Arizona Snowbowl is clearly a desecration of Doko'oo'sliid, or the San Francisco Peaks.

"When I talk with the medicine people, they say they are never consulted," Benally said. "Their opposition is pretty strong. There has been a history of intolerance of history and culture."

Benally, 27, said the 777-acre permit area that is granted to the forest service "doesn't make it any less sacred do some so-called improvements" at the Snowbowl, a ski area.

Benally was one of various Native Americans who spoke in opposition of the forest service's proposal to use reclaimed water for snowmaking and to make other improvements at the Snowbowl during one of two public meetings on Dec. 9.

The reclaimed water would be provided by the city of Flagstaff.

Snowbowl officials proposed to install the necessary infrastructure to cover approximately 203.5 acres of terrain throughout the duration of ski season that runs annually November to February, according to U.S. forest service documents.

The Holy Ones

Benally spoke during the first meeting that was held at the Tuba City High School Pavilion.

"The mountain is very sacred," said Adair Klopfestein, a Tuba City High School teacher.

Adair, a Diné from Salt Lake City, said, "That is where the Holy Ones emerged to this world. The soil guides our people, it affects how we treat them, it's how we treat ourselves."

Klopfenstein, a member of the Salt Clan, whose mother is a Navajo from Coal Mine, said to use reclaimed water on the peaks is desecration.

"If you understand the way Navajos regard the San Francisco Peaks," Klopfeinstein said during the Tuba City public meeting, "I wouldn't dare step one foot on that mountain because of the respect I have for it. To tear it up and throw your water on it is a slap in the face of who I am."

Another Navajo, Jeff Greyeyes, 27, of Kayenta, said "this slanders the identification of our people."

"I am Diné," Greyeyes said in the Navajo language. "I am of the five-fingered race. Recreation cannot overcome culture and spirituality."

Greyeyes, a Northern Arizona University student, said, "We are opposed to the desecration of our identity."

Place of snow on top

A second public meeting was held the same day in the evening at the Kykotsmovi Community Center.

Kent Sharp, a consultant with the SE Group, gave a 15-minute overhead presentation titled the "2002 Upgrading Plan, September 2002, Arizona Snowbowl" during the meeting.

Cliff Qotsaquahu, the meeting's moderator, read a statement from Hopi Chairman Wayne Taylor Jr., saying that Nuvatukaovi (The place of snow on the very top) is a sacred place for ceremonies, shrines, plants and herbs.

Nuvatukaovi is Taylor's way of mentioning the San Francisco Peaks in his village dialect, according to Qotsaquahu.

"Hopis consider most sacred," Qotsaquahu said from Taylor's statement. "I nominate Nuvatukaovi for the National Register of Historic Places."

'Dirty water'

The peaks are a traditional cultural property and were determined for the National Register of Historic Places as part of the White Vulcan Mine Settlement in July 2002, according to the forest service.

Hopi elder Dalton Taylor, who belongs to the Sun Clan, spoke only in Hopi. Qotsaquahu interpreted for him. Dalton Taylor who spoke animatedly and gestured with his hands as he addressed the crowd at the community center.

"He participates in the pilgrimage to the Hopi shrines," Qotsaquahu said for Taylor. "He doesn't want the wastewater to be used. It's not pure in nature."

Qotsaquahu said the wastewater would interfere with the delivery of Hopi prayer feathers and evergreens that are present on the peaks.

"He doesn't want to add anything to the mountain, there is currently scarring, "Qotsaquahu said for Taylor. "The Kachinas live there, and the clouds."

Another Hopi, Taylor Johnson, spoke about how the peaks are a highly spiritual place for the Hopi people.

Johnson read from a prepared statement in English, and noted that he was speaking for the village residents of Oraibi.

"It's always been recognized as a very spiritual place, a spiritual and holy place," Johnson said. "That's the dwelling place of spiritual beings. This holy place must be respected by all Americans."

Another Hopi elder, Valjean Joshevama Sr., spoke expressively in the Hopi language to the forest service representatives. Qotsaquahu interpreted Joshevama's speech into English for the audience.

"He's glad you are here to listen, he's been to many meetings," Qotsaqahu said for Joshevama. "We take our prayers to this special place. Dirty water cannot be purified."

The peaks are a place to feed the deer, eagles and the rabbits, Qotsaquhu said for Joshevama, and that food chain supports human beings.

The elder said making snow or rain is a sacred thing and he was concerned about humans making snow.

Rich will benefit

Herman Honanie of Kykotsmovi said, "It is very unnerving to me" about the forest service's proposal and the improvements to Snowbowl.

"Who are they thinking about?" Honanie said. "They aren't thinking about the Hopi or the native people. They are thinking about the people of the Valley, the rich people."

Honanie, who belongs to the Tobacco Clan, said he participates in the kachina religious activity of the Hopi, and the proposals affect him negatively.

"This is really painful," Honanie said. "This is not religious freedom."

Jim Golden, Coconino National Forest supervisor, said he knows a proposed action for improvement at the Arizona Snowbowl is controversial among Native American nations of the Southwest.

"The Hopi and the forest service have a good relationship because it's important to us," Golden said during the Kykotsmovi meeting. "All these people are presenting is a proposal of improvement. We honor our relationship because we need to treat each other with dignity and respect because on the long run we hope there's way to mitigate your concerns."

Golden added that forest service representatives would like the make the proposal "more acceptable to you."

Multiple use

The mountain provides outdoor recreation opportunities that are "extremely important to the public's quality of life and the area's tourism industry," Golden said in a letter distributed to the public. "Part of the Forest Service mission is to manage for multiple use. Balancing conflicting uses on National Forest land is always challenging."

Golden acknowledged that "it will not be an easy topic for many to consider with an open mind."

"Neither will it be an easy decision for me," Golden said in the letter. "The ski area has a long history as a valid and appropriate use of national forest system lands providing winter recreation opportunities to the general public."

Currently, Flagstaff uses reclaimed water on city parks and school playgrounds during the summer, but it goes unused during the winter, according to the letter.

The unused reclaimed water is released into the Rio de Flag.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality allowed reclaimed water with an "A" rating to be used in snowmaking. The water that would be provided by the Rio de Flag plant exceeds this standard, according to the forest service.

"The city of Flagstaff doesn't test for pharmaceuticals, there are a lot of concerns and questions," Benally said. "They are going to be spraying all this reclaimed area. If the snow blows, it will further contaminate other areas."

14-mile pipeline

Through the installation of about 14 miles of buried pipeline, reclaimed water would be transported from the Rio de Flag Treatment Plant in Flagstaff.

The water line would begin in the Thorpe Park area of west Flagstaff then run northwest across Observatory Mesa along a forest road and would connect with an existing natural gas pipeline right-of-way that intersects the Snowbowl Road.

A 10-million-gallon water storage pond would be developed near the top terminal of the existing Sunset Lift. An added benefit is providing a water source for local forest fire operations, according to the forest service.

The snowmaking infrastructure would involve the burial of air, water, and power lines along the edges of ski trails as well as the construction of a 3,000-to-4,000 square foot control building.

Other proposed actions include the creation of a snowplay/tubing facility, upgrading older lift equipment, development and changes in terrain and downhill capacity for skiers, increasing guest service facilities and upgrades in sewer, night lighting, roads, summer trails and parking.

"This is just a proposal," said Gene Waldruff of the Coconino National Forest Service during the Kykotsmovi meeting. "As a matter of act, this is our last meeting. We will consider all comments, we recognize it as a very controversial subject. There's an environmental analysis that we still have to be done, (we) don't
understand all the implications."

A historic place

Golden noted during the Kykotsmovi meeting that the peaks are eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places during January 2003.

Golden said the forest service would complete that nomination.

The peaks are sacred to the Acoma, Fort McDowell Mohave Apache, San Carlos Apache, Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Yavapai-Apache, Yavapai-Prescott, Tonto Apache, White Mountain Apache and Zuni.

The Snowbowl Ski area has been in operation under a special permit from the forest service for 62 years, according to the forest service.

Most of the proposals are consistent with the ski area's master plan which was analyzed in a 1979 environmental impact statement, according to the forest service.

The 1979 EIS approved construction and operation of a total of six lifts at the Snowbowl. Three were constructed subsequent to 1979. Four lifts are presently in
operation at the Snowbowl.

The forest service's proposal can be viewed at on the Coconino Forest Web site. E-mail comments can be made to:

The public can provide written comments to the Peaks Ranger District, Attn: Snowbowl Upgrade, 5075 N. Highway 89, Flagstaff, AZ 86004.

Information: 928-527-3600.


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.